Heather Szilagyi, fiancé Eric Neilson, and 8-year-old daughter Molly were traveling from Vancouver, Canada, to London, England, and on to Slovenia when Szilagyi spotted a bedbug crawling over the back of the seat in front of her.
Since she had worked in hotels most of her life, Szilagyi could immediately identify the crawling creature.
“It was about half-an-hour to an hour into the flight I saw one. It was coming out of the back of the TV screen,” Szilagyi told TheSun.co.uk. “It came out of that and I wanted to get it with a Kleenex but it crawled back in.
“I wanted to grab it but they’re quick, and it crawled back inside, behind the screen,” she told CTV Vancouver.
When dinner was served, another of the insects came out to investigate.
“Our food came out and I went to put the tray down on my lap,” Szilagyi recalled. “I saw what was maybe a flax seed—but it started moving—it was a bug.”
Szilagyi discreetly informed the flight attendant.
— Heather Szilagyi (@heatherfact) October 12, 2017
According to Szilagyi, the flight attendant told her, “Oh ok, sorry about that. We’re sold out. We don’t have anywhere to move you.”
Szilagyi said the flight attendant didn’t seem surprised.
The flight lasted nine hours. Eventually the three passengers fell asleep.
“It was nine hours of knowing that I was probably going to get bit, but not being sure,” Szilagyi said. “But there wasn’t really anything I could do about it. I was surprised I was able to relax, but what can you do?”
When they awoke they were covered in bug bites.
— Eric Faceplant (@EricFaceplant) October 12, 2017
“Me and my daughter are both really sensitive to insect bites, so she was just covered just all over. I’ve still got a really infected one,” Szilagyi said.
Rather than demand a refund, the 38-year old merely asked that the plane be cleaned thoroughly—she didn’t want to repeat the ordeal on the flight home.
Szilagyi called repeatedly, but couldn’t get through. The office was in a different time zone, and was only open for a few hours a day. She consistently got a recording or got cut off.
Frustrated, Szilagyi and her fiancé took photos of their bites and posted them on Twitter. That got them a call from British Airways. The airline upgraded their seats to Business Class for the flight home.
In a statement, British Airways said, “”We have been in touch with our customer to apologize and investigate further.
“British Airways operates more than 280,000 flights every year, and reports of bed bugs onboard are extremely rare. Nevertheless, we are vigilant and continually monitor our aircraft.”
For Szylagyi, one of the worst parts of the experience was the reaction she got online. Many people accused her of trying to scam the airline for money.
“It’s horrible for me because all these people think that we’re just wanting attention and wanting to sue a company, but this is not what I want to be known for. I don t want to be bed bug girl, ” she said.